University of California President Janet Napolitano announced a $25 million fund during the Regents’ meeting last Wednesday to support over 3,000 undocumented students in the UC system over the next three years.
The new fund, which will allocate $8.4 million a year through the 2018-19 academic year, is part of Napolitano’s initiative to serve undocumented students. She launched the initiative with a $5 million fund during her first month as UC President in the fall of 2013, which is set to expire this year.
Under the new fund, UCI’s DREAM Loan program will receive $5 million per year for at least three years. The DREAM Loan program, funded by the state and UC, seeks to provide eligible students with the opportunity to take loans to fund their education, since undocumented students are ineligible to receive federal aid.
For the next three years as well, $2.5 million per year will be committed to support student personnel and to provide fellowships for undocumented undergraduate and graduate students, as well as other financial support, such as funds for textbooks.
UC will also fund its Undocumented Legal Services Center through the 2018-19 academic year by providing the center with $900,000 per year to expand its services.
The Undocumented Legal Services Center seeks to provide free immigration-related legal assistance to students at UC campuses without law schools, such as UC Merced, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside.
“This will fundamentally help ensure that undocumented students at the UC receive the support and resources they need to succeed at the University of California,” said Napolitano during the Regents’ meeting.
UCI Student DREAMers coordinator, Amy Yu, however, believes that the $25 million fund is neither the most sustainable nor best-suited means of supporting undocumented students, especially for students who do not have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
“Loans especially hurt non-DACA students because they have no work permit to eventually pay off those loans,” said Yu. “Even those who do have DACA will have difficulty paying off loans with high interest rates.”
Yu and many others also question Napolitano’s credibility in creating this fund, as she proposed deportation policies as former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“Even though President Napolitano is funding our students, her history as the Secretary of the DHS, during which she contributed to the deportation of two million immigrants under the Obama administration, will never be forgotten,” said Yu.
Approximately 538 undocumented students are enrolled at UCI this year. Yu describes that these students face several other problems including difficulties finding employment, accessing affordable textbooks and housing, as well as a hostile campus climate because of the lack of awareness among staff and faculty about undocumented students.
SOAR’s Undocumented Student Programs seeks to address these challenges on UCI’s campus by hosting programs on immigrant rights advocacy and leadership, academic success and professional development, and by providing undocumented students with resources, support and opportunities.